One Year (and WIN!)

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. –Mary Lou Cook

I love this quote because it describes me exactly one year ago this week, as I reluctantly* started my blog ‘4 Reluctant Entertainers,’ and set out to help people in their journey to gracious living, entertaining, reaching out and living a life of hospitality. I kept in mind my mission of not only helping others, but of writing to my children, so that one day I will print out and bind up these posts, and hand them to each child and their spouse.

Here was my very first post, Oct. 18, 2006:

With the best intentions, many of us think about entertaining, but never get around to it. Usually this happens because we don’t have enough time, we’re disorganized or our spouse isn’t interested in hosting a party, or even a small dinner!

For many this blessing of gracious living for both the host and her guests never takes place because of fear … fear of failure, unable to cook, unwilling to share their lives with others, fear of deepening friendships … they are intimidated and think the meal has to be perfect, or … they don’t have the lifestyle that says, “welcome.”

I believe in connection.I believe that Americans need to lower the expectations of perfection and open their homes to heart-warming dinners and in doing so, open their lives to LOVE!

To celebrate this one-year experience in my life, I am giving away a beautiful apron (customized or kept plain, for you or a friend or even a gift!), along with a very special FALL package, including some of my home cookin’ and other fun southern Oregon surprises!

Here's what you need to do to win: Please post a comment, maybe how my blog has resonated with you this last year and has helped you along your entertaining journey. I’d also love to hear of future posts ideas that would be helpful to you.

(Graciously post about this give-a-way on your blog (just let me know), and your name will go into the drawing twice! )

Comments will be collected and the winner’s name posted on FRIDAY, October 19th.

*Me, reluctant? Yes! I finally gave in to my friend Barb who kept encouraging me to “start a blog!” So thank you to Barb, and to my sweet hubby, Paul, and a lot of new friends in blogland who have cheered me on along the way this last year.

[Photos: My personalized "Reluctant Entertainer" apron, made by Hoppi (Thursday Night Dinners)]


ValleyGirl said...

Ooooo, put me down for TWO!!! There'll be a link on my side-bar as soon as I'm done here!!

You've been an incredible source of helpful tips, attitude adjustment ideas, and just an overall huge encourager of heart-warming openness and true hospitality, whether it's entertaining at home or doing something for someone outside the home. I don't know that we've had people over more often since I started reading your blog, but my attitude about how my house looks and how the food looks, and all those pesky little details that usually don't matter to others, has changed quite a bit. I've definitely started focusing on serving my guests (not just food!) rather than serving myself (making sure the house looks like I'm the best housekeeper in the world!).

As far as new ideas, I don't know that I have any, but I love your Balcony Girls posts, so you could sure keep those ones coming!!

Beaufort Belle said...

Reluctant...hmmm...I still haven't hosted except for immediate family. They ignore what the house looks like but I am really working on forgetting about the stains and having a "clean" house otherwise. I love your ten commandments and keep those on the side of my refrigerator. One thing I can work on more immediately is entertaining the "girls" 14-15...they certainly don't care about the house and I can make up goodies when they are visiting.

I am glad you are no longer reluctant to blog. Maybe with your continuing to blog, I can start entertaining.

Thank you for all your help...It is going in my head, my heart, and my help file, even if I am not using it like I should.


Jen T. said...

I love your philosophy of ministry and entertaining. I love having guests and am learning how to make that a natural part of what we do everyday around here! 3 kids under 6 keeps it hopping!

Katie said...

I'd love to win... mostly I'm glad for your blog, just because I've gotten to know you and even send a package your way, once.

GiBee said...

Beautiful, Sandy! I know that the moment I read your blog ... there was an instant connection. Kindred spirits, of sorts! We seem to love the same things. It drives my husband crazy... I'm the "gas" and he's the "brakes" in our relationship -- lol! But fortunately, we both love to entertain. I just tend to be more obsessive compuslive than him.

Having said that, you always have wonderful tips, encouragement to keep it simple, and lovely recipes! They always seem to apply to me in one way or another!

I guess something I'd like to delve more into is housewarming gifts...

I really struggle with taking housewarming gifts. To give or not to give? When is it appropriate, when is it not?

When our new Assoc Pastor and his family arrived, we had them over for dinner. They came bearing a large canning jar with awesome honey that he brought with him from their previous town -- he raises honey bees (he has now set up new hives here in his new home, and I can't wait to taste the local honey). It was such a lovely and thoughtful gift.

Then, when they reciprocated the invite with and invite to a dinner party for the assoc pastor's bday, I found myself rushing with work, child, preparing the family , getting the babysitters ready, etc. that I arrived empty handed (except for a birthday gift).

I felt so rude!!!

Also, what are some fast, inexpensive ideas for the working mom (full-time job outside of the house) that doesn't have time to can any goodies?

How's that for an idea?

GiBee said...

One more thing... I'll mention this in a post tomorrow!

Mrs. B. said...

I get all giddy when there is a new notification for me from your blog. It's one of my very favorites to read.
I love the updates on your sweet Balcony Girls. You have inspired me to begin a group similar to that when my daughter gets old enough. What a blessing you are to those young women at such a crucial time in their lives!
Thank you for your inspiring words!

Jammy said...

The encouragement on your blog has given me the courage to step outside my comfort zone and realize that it's not all about *ME*!!! LOL It's about serving others, being warm and caring, making relationships etc... etc... etc...

It doesn't have to be extravagant, perfect, or over-complicated. Just some time to be put aside to relax and share with others.....
So thank you for that! I have hosted a number of things this year and each year I am less stressed out, and having more fun.

Throwing a birthday party, the stress I used to allow in due to my incorrect thoughts used to steal my joy and the joy of those around me before an event. Now, I am looking for new ideas and reasons to throw something together and have friends over. ;-)

Oh, and please put my name in twice. I will post on my blog shortly.

Jenn :)

Org Junkie said...

Sandy I also felt very at home here from the first time I visited. You immediately get a sense of who you are and your generous spirit. I am so encouraged and uplifted by you. You've stretched me to think outside of my organized box and I like what I see. I just hosted a luncheon a couple of weeks ago for a friend and it was delightful.

If I think of some future topics I will definitely email you. Need to think on that one.

Thanks again and congratulations! I would be honored to wear that apron.

Much blessings,

An Ordinary Mom said...

My first bloggy anniversary is coming up in a few weeks!

I have loved reading your posts. They inspire me to cherish the good friendships I have. You also remind me entertaining does not have to be expensive.

And enter me twice, I will leave a blurb about this contest on an upcoming post tonight!

An Ordinary Mom said...

I just posted my blurb! Congrats again on reaching this wonderful milestone. Are you going to entertain to celebrate it :) ?!?

Julie said...

Congrats on one whole year of sharing your 'relaxed hospitality'. That's what I've learned here...not to worry so much about a dust bunny or two (or three). Though we've ALWAYS entertained, I've tended towards perfectionism. I think your blog has helped me focus on what's really important. And THAT, my dear, is a really good thing.

HappyGoMommy! said...

Congrats on your first year! I have enjoyed seeing your table/home decorations the most, as well as your ideas for your daughter's girls' club. Keep the ideas coming! :)

Jessica said...

Oh my goodness, I feel like you are a trusted mentor even though we've never met! I found your site in a very round-about way about a week or two ago, and I have since read every post! You have no idea what an encouragment and inspiration your words have been to me. I'm almost 23 and have been married a little over a year, but my husband and I just moved back to his hometown, so in a sense we are "starting over" -- reconnecting with people in the church and area again and building solid relationships.
My favorite posts have been the ones about table/home decorations and how you've found great deals at yard sales, etc. I already love to bargain hunt, but I never thought to take that hobby and turn it into a way to make my home better for OTHERS, so thank you.

I would love to see some hints on entertaining for those with very small homes (we have a small apartment right now, and unfortunately that is holding me back - but I don't want it to). I'd also love to know any games you like to play with your guests. I remember reading something about Scrabble -- have you found any others that people of different backgrounds enjoy playing?

I linked you in my blog so please enter me twice for your lovely apron give-a-way! Thank you for all the online encouragment, and KEEP BLOGGING, PLEASE! :)

Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home said...


Your anniversary is my anniversary - my husband and I celebrate 22 years on the 18th!

You picked the perfect title for your blog because there are a lot of reluctant entertainers out here. I love entertaining, but I don't do it nearly often enough because I never think my house is clean enough (9 people live here!) or I get intimidated otherwise. I expect perfection of myself, but I never attain it.

You are very encouraging and always present entertaining in a perfect light and in the true spirit of the word.

Happy anniversary!

p.s. - I'll post about it, too!

Kelly said...

I'm not necessarily a reluctant entertainer. I think I have a gene that mandates entertaining. But boy, has your blog been full of encouragement to do it more, to do it well and, above all, to do it for the people involved.

Plus, I love seeing the produce out of your garden. It's always beautiful.

Future topics? How about "how to entertain with the preschool-and-under set." Should it even be attempted with children that age? Or would it be better for all involved to get babysitters for an adult get-together?

I'm expecting my third child in January, in addition to our six- and four-year-old. It's a topic relevant for me!

OKGardners said...

Even as old as I am (over 60) -I have never felt good enough to entertain or cook for others. You are certainly giving me the encouragement I need to get this done! We just moved into a beautiful new home in a neighborhood full of younger families and I need to mentor them. I am the Mom of 3, stepmom to 2, and grandmother of 12. One of my daughters is the Hospitality Queen and has guests and large gatherings on a very regular basis. (She also just had her 9th baby) ... so she is teaching me, also, on the Art of Hospitality.

Please know that you are a true blessing to all of us who read you. You are one of the FIRST blogs I check each day.

I love your Balcony Girls concept and my Mom set up something similar and we called it the Happy 5 Club. We sure had a good time - WAY back in the 1950s. (My Mom was placed in an orphanage at age 7 when her Mom died) So she didn't have a very happy childhood, but was a WONDERFUL person to all around her as an adult. Unfortunately, she died at age 59 of cancer. I shed tears when the little girls learned their lesson from the lady at the Cooking Store last week. Learning at such a young age to treat others fairly is a great lesson for them to learn and share with others.

You think of so many "homey" ideas to blog about, I can't think of any ideas that you aren't already doing. Just keep on blogging and encouraging us to be Eager Entertainers. I'd love to have your apron.

Love from Oklahoma,

Lovella said...

I've certainly appreciated your enthusiasm and encouragement for others to open up thier homes to guests.

Congratulations on your one year anniversary. Your apron give away is very sweet.

A Woman Who is: said...

I just posted you on my blog. I love the apron. I love your blog. I don't get here often enough, but every time I do, I am delighted by your ideas, your lifestyle and all your wonderful encouragement. Matter of fact you should think about a book, not just for your children, but for all of us.
My children are grown now, but I must say by living by what you preach, my home is still a gathering place for our family and friends. Just tonight all three of my children dropped in for dinner. I can always come up with something on the fly. Fresh salsa from the garden, and homemade quesadilla’s was a big hit. I love the rewards of having made my house a home, a place they all want to come back too.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you stopped by my blog - so that I could find yours! I love it!
I, too, love to entertain. In fact, I work for a chef! :)
Mind if I put a link to your blog on mine?

linda t said...

Hi Sandy!
I feel such a kindred spirit to you, as we started this blog adventure around the same time and your blog and your friendship has meant so much. You are so warm and caring and it comes through on your blog. I have taken so much from what you write about. You are an inspiration to all of us, wanting us to share our homes with others more... becoming more aware of our gifts and talents... taking risks... keeping it simple is ok.
Thank you dear Sandy for sharing your home & family with us this past year!
Hey, we're on the last leg of our trip! Can't wait to get home tonight!

Jami said...

Sandy, Congratulations!!! You are, heart and soul, a blessing to many. Your posts touch my heart every time and teach me things I need to know and want to see in my life as I grow.

Much love and gratitude always-


Andrea said...

Hi Sandy,
I'd love to be entered twice. I plan on putting a link to your blog sometime within the day.
Since the first time I checked out your blog (I don't even remember how I found it!) I have loved every single post. They are all creative, encouraging and inspiring.
I don't host a lot (in fact, hardly at all), but as part of my Winter "Activity Menu" Challenge that I started on my blog, I plan to have company over for dinner once every other week. I'm hoping to stick to my goal over winter and hopefully keep it going even once Spring shows up. I plan on re-visiting old posts of yours to get renewed inspiration.
God has given you a gift, Sandy. Not just the gift of hospitality, but the gift of connecting with your readers. You not only bless your company that enters your house, you bless every single one of your readers too!

Linda in Minnie said...

Oh, what can I say? You are a great encouragement, a sweet true friend and so wise! I love reading all your great ideas, especially the thrifty ones and the recipes! I have gone through and collected every recipe. But hopefully you will do that yourself one day! I have so enjoyed watching you grow in your writing career - and getting to know you and Paul. I have not managed to entertain more, but I love your ideas for conversation starters. One thing a friend of mine did once was a game: everyone had a name on a piece of paper attached to their back (a famous person - I was Marie Antoinette). You had to guess whose name was on your back. You were allowed to ask anyone else three questions each - yes or no questions only. Like, am I alive? am I dead? did I lose my head? okay, okay, but it was fun. It was a GREAT ice breaker. This was at an outside garden party and everyone was wandering around, you didn't see the little clumps that usually form. Great for bringing together disparate groups of people you know.
Keep up the GREAT work, gal! I love it and have passed it on to everyone I know at least twice! When I get my website up, you will get a link for sure!
Thanks, Linda in Minnie

Nadine said...

It's a great looking apron. I love them. I've really enjoyed reading your posts. It's encouraging to me that some of the things I do are very similar and you have wonderful ideas to share with all of us. Keep up the great job.

NanAZ said...

Hi Sandy, Found your blog thru my friend Linda and would love to be in your anniversary drawing! I love to "entertain" as well, and as the years go by I find the treasure of friends and family even more valuable as we realize that life is short and time is precious.

I look forward to visiting your blog more often in the future. Feel free to drop by and say hi on mine once in a while too.

Happy Anniversary!

Cheryl in California said...

I just found your blog through Crosswalk Women enewsletter. I was so encouraged by the article you wrote that I went to your website and read a few of your blogs. I have always wanted to be more hospitable but sad to say I have always felt that as a pastor's wife I had certain standards to meet. So I 'entertain' on a need-to basis not on an 'want to' basis to bond and share our love to others basis. Thanks for your encouraging words. I'm not a blogger but I loved reading your blog. Thanks for sharing the insights God has given to you to help those of us who struggle between entertaining and hospitality.

mich.cook@sbcglobal.net said...

You keep me thinking :)! How long as it been since I entertained, who came, what I served and how soon I need to do it again. I really enjoy how you get your kids involved and what an incredible legacy you are passing on to them.
Thank you!!!

Becca said...

Sandy, what perfect timing! I was going to post today about what an inspiration you have been. James and I have really stepped out in hosting other people in our home--singly and in groups. We are loving it and learning so much! Thanks for all your excellent advice.

Classic MaMa said...

Honestly, when I first came across this blog, I thought: "Entertain? Me? That's just not my bag." And then I strted to get a bit convicted when I would visit here. I started thinking about why I thought this was not for me. I realized that opening up my home to others meant opening up for others to see my imperfections, my shortcomings, and my lack of decorating sense.
Recently, we moved to a larger house and as soon as God told us to move, I realized that he was also telling me to be more hospitable. My husband and I started calling this place the "hospitality house." We are currently unpacking boxes and thinking about the dinners we will host in a few weeks.
Thank you for listening to the Holy Spirit. He has used you to tug at my heart and to remove some of that pride that had cemented itself in there.

Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

I have been so inspired by your blog - I have only found it recently but have gone through a lot of your archives- how the information, encouragement, and practical ideas abound! I really love how you have stressed the importance of every thing not having to be perfect, but that you bring your whole self to the entertaining process because that is what your guests will remember. I also appreciate the encouragement to look for special items to decorate at garage sales/salvation army/thrift stores. It is so wonderful to know that I don't have to have a huge budget in order to make my home beautiful. I have added you to my sidebar so others may be encouraged as much as I have.

My question for a future post is probably not what you are looking for yet it is something my husband and I really desire to know:

How do we include our little children (2,4 and one not born yet) into the entertaining process. In what ways can we incorporate them and teach them how to engage and make the guests feel comfortable? Or is it even possible?

We wish for our children to be a joy to our guests and to be fully integrated into our entertaining, but we just don't know how to accomplish that.

Thank you so much for having this blog. You have made a difference in my life as this is a passion I have, but have not had the skills or knowledge in how to actually entertain!


Mrs said...

I am somewhat...yes I admit it...a "perfectionist" when it comes to entertaining. I have been a Chef/ Caterer for lots of so called "important" people.for almost 20 years ..and always felt i have to put in 110% effort and want to be acknowldedged and noticed for it ! But.... yes...there is a huge BUT now......after reading your blog... I am immensely encouraged to use the gift Gods given me of " hospitality" without the perfectionism!!
I have a wonderful blended family and have been too scared to entertain being I am from a different country ( Australia) and don't want to feel like I am better than them. I too, live in Oregon..in Portland and would dearly love now to invite them ALL.. for a "thanksgiving" family meal. Show true hospitality..and show true love of Christ...( which does come very easily) but put away that "perfect" entertaining image!

Thank you for sharing your heart and your gift the Lords given you. It has truly inspired and encouraged me today!!

Love and Blessings..

Leigh Ann said...


You know I love, love, love your blog. It always resonates with me as a woman, wife, mother, and hostess. I love entertaining and you remind me of that.

Happy, happy one year!

Cheers! LA

PS You knew I'd be hooked by an apron, right?

Joy said...

Hi Sandy,

I love your blog. Period!

But seriously I think you have de-systified entertaining for a lot of women - you have taken the fear out of doing so. I commend you for that :)

I would love to see more dinner menu plans - always like to see what others are offering up for dinner....

Oh, come stop by blog for my anniversary too! I am giving away a prize pack ... woo hoo!

Joy :)

Lyndee said...

OOOOh my gosh I am so glad to find you! This is new but I am gobbling your blogspot up now that I am onto you! My daughter-in-law turned me onto you and I wanted to let you know that I think you have a creative and wonderful blogspot and the idea of binding and posting for your kids is fantastik! You go girl. I am a gramma now and still want to speak into the lives of my 4 kids and 3 grandkids about life including all forms of hospitality and the like! Be blessed!

Sarah N. said...

Congrats on your one year blogging anniverary! I just found you but I am definately going to be looking back through your archives.

One of my New Year's resolutions last year was to be more hospitable. Still lots of room for improvement!

I would love to win the beautiful apron!

Sarah N.

Sarah N. said...

I also just added a link over on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sandy,
You are encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone! I wrote to you via email recently stating how I love your Balcony Girls adventures. I can't wait for you to write a book on it. I see you as an example to me ... what I want to be "when I grow up".
Wishing we had you speaking for our MOPS group! Can't wait to be reading about you and MOPS someday.
I'd be thrilled to win an apron in case you pick me!
Susie - pearsonbusiness@yahoo.com

Tonya said...

I am new to your blog,but I am very interested:)I would be interested in entertaining if I knew anybody,we just moved here.Here is hoping:)

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hi, Sandy, I'm so glad you started your blog. You have been a great inspiration to me also, even though we still don't entertain a lot, you make me want to do it more. We're still in the process of making friends & building relationships & that seems to take a lot of time these days. So, thank you so much for opening up your heart to all of us & encouraging us to get out there & entertain more, open up our homes to others. I really, really want to do it more!


Bess said...

I just came across your blog from a friend's blog...count me in!

Even though I have not read your blog over the past year, the past 5 minutes have been inspirational! You know, God puts things across your path at the right moment. Lately, my husband and I are having a difficult time connecting (I mean REALLY connecting on a deeper friendship level) with other people, even those in our church small group. It seems as if no one wants to be vulnerable, and I'm the odd one out, wanting to open up more to others. Maybe entertaining in our home is the answer. Thank you for what you do, your wisdom, and your encouragement!

PS- I am definitely putting a link on my blog right now!

Barb said...

It has been SO exciting watching your inner blogwoman blossom here at RE! Your blog is always beautiful, practical and totally inspiring. I knew you could do it! Lookin' forward now to all the other great surprises you have inside!

Ornery's Wife said...

Thanks for the visit to my blog! As I have shared before in a comment, your blog has given me the impetus to get out and meet my neighbors. I have actually spent more time in conversation with them in the past week since I gave out my Fall Fun Block Party invitations than I have in the whole 12 years we have lived here!

I am getting excited about the gathering, and have offered to take neighbors' household pollutants to an event scheduled the day after the party. So, not only am I re-entering the entertaining realm, I am also finding ways to share the "green" message with my neighbors and help them out besides!

Your blog has meant a lot to me in that you freely share ideas, encourage simplicity in entertaining, and have really given me motivation! Keep up the good work!

Emily said...

I have been blessed and encouraged in many ways by your blog. A few examples include the encouragement to be thrifty and creative (dollar store has great stuff!); your focus on relationships and blessing our guests vs. keeping the focus on US and the details that ultimately do not matter in the hearts of people (if the food does not turn out perfect, for instance, people truly do not care). I could add much more but that is a start, so thank you!!

momrn2 said...

What a blessing it has been to "meet" you friend!! I remember when I first came to your blog I went back and read every one of your posts that you had written in your archives. I haven't missed one since! :-)

What a special treat it would be to win the apron and beautiful package you are putting together! Sorry I'm so late in getting over here (and putting the announcement up at My Quiet Corner) but my trip kept me hopping.

Happy 1 year bloggiversary to you dear friend! Here's to many more wonderful posts to come....

Christine said...

Hooray for you! I'm so glad you are out here in the blogosphere. I love all of your posts and ideas but I especially love the Balcony Girls posts. I am socking that information away for a few years down the road when my sweet Maddy is older. Maybe by then your book will be out!!

Love you!

La Tea Dah said...

I've enjoyed your blog very much! If you check mine out today, you'll see a post about your 1 year celebration! Thank you for sharing simple tips for gracious hospitality that doesn't burden and stress the hostess. I've enjoyed everything, but especially your post about the kind lady who sometimes prepares a meal for you. That was cool!

Happy year #2!


Peach said...

Oh, Sandy, you have given me hope that my formerly permanent status as a reluctant entertainer need not stay so. I have been thinking of ways to employ your ideas and have begun taking baby steps in the right direction lately. You inspire. You encourage. You make it look easy, and I am thankful you have crossed my path.

justabeachkat said...

I love the apron...so cute. I enjoy your blog so much. I entertained alot more before my husband retired and we moved. Living in Florida, we entertain alot, but very casually, which is still alot of fun. Thanks for so many encouraging post. Happy one year anniversary!


Nunnie's Attic said...

I just found you this morning through Gracious Hospitality. So I don't know if I'm eligible for the giveaway or not. But nonetheless, I love your blog. I love entertaining and I'm so happy to have found you.

I think I see another name going on my blogroll. Congratulations on your anniversary and looking forward to many more posts!!


Suzanne said...

I am sharing your blog with a small group of ladies from my church in a mini-seminar on Practicing Hospitality. After the weekend is over, I will have time to link to you on my poor little neglected blog! I LOVE coming to your site and finding encouragement to reach out!! You not only have the gift for it, but you describe it and write of it in such a wonderful way. Thanks for all the encouragement you give us to reach out in our own worlds!!!

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog today. Looking forward to having some more time to read, I think it is just what I need!! As a homeschooling mom of 6 with a few chronic illnesses, entertaining is a huge task and one that I dont hardly do or want to. Well, actually I want to and come up with great ideas, but never do them. Thanks for your inspiration!

P.S I lived in Grants Pass for all of my childhood years and used to water ski on the Rogue River almost daily during the summer time.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

I'm sorry I missed your contest, but I wanted to tell you congratulations anyway! I've loved reading all your tips and the way you make it all seem so "do-able.! Thank you!